In an Executive Order issued Monday, President Obama adopted the final recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force that has been gathering facts and drafting the policy since June 2009.
The order creates a National Ocean Council to implement the new policy.
Marine management under this policy will be "ecosystem-based," which means that regulation of specific activities, such as oil and gas development, will take into account impacts on the broader ecosystems that could be affected.
The California coast at Santa Barbara (Photo by Paul Rumsey)
For the first time, it provides for the development of coastal and marine spatial plans that build upon and improve existing federal, state, tribal, local, and regional decisionmaking and planning processes.
Marine spatial planning is intended to protect ocean ecosystems and minimize conflicts between new and existing ocean uses through science-based decision making and the involvement of stakeholders and the public.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "The new national policy provides a clear road map for all federal agencies to work together, with local partners, to protect our vital waters for future generations."
The regional plans "will enable a more integrated, comprehensive, ecosystem-based, flexible, and proactive approach to planning and managing sustainable multiple uses across sectors and improve the conservation of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes," Obama states in the Executive Order.
"President Obama recognized that our uses of the ocean are expanding at a rate that challenges our ability to manage significant and often competing demands," said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who led the task force that included 24 senior-level policy officials from across the federal government.
"With a growing number of recreational, scientific, energy, and security activities," said Sutley, "we need a national policy that sets the United States on a new path for the conservation and sustainable use of these critical natural resources."
"As we witness the gut-wrenching devastation in the Gulf of Mexico, this announcement is welcome news for the future health of our oceans," said Bill Eichbaum, WWF vice president for marine policy. "We commend President Obama for his leadership in convening the task force and heeding its recommendations."
In 2003 and 2004, reports issued by the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, respectively, warned that poor management and lack of coordination among federal agencies were threatening the health and economic productivity of our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes.
"This first-of-its kind framework will help our nation plan wisely for the future of our oceans and coastlines, so that we can continue to experience their beauty and bounty for generations to come," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
"Today, possibly more so than any point in our nation's history, we appreciate that healthy oceans matter," said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"The Task Force's Final Recommendations provide a balance between protecting and preserving the marine environment, and promoting economic progress," said said Admiral Bob Papp, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. "The framework protects the interests of all users, improves ocean stewardship, and provides the foundation for improving maritime governance at the international, regional, state, and local levels."
"The Department of the Navy strongly supports the principles and framework laid out in this new Executive Order," said Donald Schregardus, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for environment. "Strengthening the vital link between our global maritime mission and our responsibility to safeguard the environment is a key component to our environmental strategy. The establishment of the National Ocean Council will be important in advancing this strategic priority."
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger applauded the move, saying, "The Deepwater Horizon spill has emphasized what a vital role our oceans play in our environment, economy and overall well-being. California has long demonstrated leadership with ocean and coastal protection and we stand ready to continue assisting President Obama at all levels of government to ensure that we safeguard our treasured natural resources."
The National Ocean Council will plan to hold its first meeting later this summer to begin implementing the national policy.
Click here for the full text of the National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes.
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